I was a drunk. A socially acceptable drunk, but a drunk all the same. Let me qualify. The difference between a socially acceptable drunk, and the other kind, is means. A reasonable job, with a reasonable title affords you some leverage (read: opportunity) to drink often. I was that guy.
I used to frequent a little spot in Melville in Johannesburg, most every chance I got. They had the sweetest Juke box, and I found David Byrne and Vodka to be the easiest way to forget the fact that I was an adulterer, fresh from a divorce. That kind of pain is a curious thing. It is like a stake in the soul. It is unmoving, and any attempt to pull it out when you are sober, is just too painful. So, you give up contemplating pulling it out. And so, hope of release vanishes. Conversely, when you are drunk, you simply lack the resolve to deal with the issue. And so the steel stake stays firmly embedded; and with time it rusts.
When the soul starts to erode, all things fall apart; to quote David Byrne: “Things fall apart, it’s scientific”. Most every relationship in my life was broken to a greater or lesser extent. Even my German Shepherd puppy had doubts about me. It was at this point, that I graduated to hard drugs, (cocaine et al), and my life became an endless abyss of monotonous drinking, lifelessness with all the trimmings. It is a peculiar irony when you try to show the world that you are truly living, and yet dying. It is the Hallmark (card) of the socially acceptable drunk.
Fast forward to the 12th of January 2005. I had come from the office, swung by the home that I was renovating, and whose bond I had used to fund my drinking and (expanding) drug habit. I cleaned myself up, and I think I went for Sushi. Maybe. What I do remember is that I was sending back Vodkas on ice, with a twist of Lime at an alarming rate. In fact, I felt so good that I almost felt and behaved normally. So, paying homage to the god of booze, I drank more. People, who generally hurt as much as I did, try to find something to make them feel good, and when they find it; it becomes their god. On this particular evening, Vodka was my god. Things get hazy from here, not only because I was really drunk, but because of the hurt. The pain in my soul, did not make me forget so much as it made me unwilling to remember life. With so few memories worth capturing, your life becomes a bit like a photo negative that never quite makes it to print.
It was at this point in the evening, that I ordered myself a bag of cocaine from a friend. We were such good friends in fact, that I did not even know she had a Heroine habit. Well, she did – have a Heroine habit that is. I was later told that she ordered herself a bag of Heroine, and a bag of Cocaine for me. I am further told that the bags got mixed up in her pocket, and in the process, I was given the Heroine instead. I took it, I used it, a great deal of it, felt sleepy, so I took some more, and then, I don’t remember.
I do however remember waking up. I shouldn’t have – woken up. When I did, I was lying on a cement floor in a haunt in Melville, with many paramedics standing over me. Funny, I don’t remember any music on the Juke box that evening. I am told that I was all but dead. I wasn’t breathing enough to sustain life, and my heart rate had slowed to a rate that is not healthy, even for hibernating reptiles. I should have been dead. I knew it, the first and second team of paramedics knew it, and the physician who attended me in hospital was also bluntly-convinced.
A few months later I met a man called Jesus at a prophetic evening. This is when God speaks to you through the mouth of a person, who is inspired by the Spirit of God. It is a supernatural trip. It is as if the person takes dictation from the Living God and tells you about you. Fortune tellers have tried to imitate this, but what comes from their mouth is fools gold (a post for another day). Back to the prophecy I received… Man alive! To quote the woman at the well in John 4: “He told me everything I ever did”. Moreover, He told me some stuff about what I was going to do, why He made me, and what hopes and expectations He had for me. As is His custom (I have learned), He threw in some pretty amazing promises of redemption – a wife, a hope, a future. He simply told me the truth that night on the West Rand. And, how could He not, He is the Truth. Sad-sack no more!
I have adopted Him you know, as my Counsellor and Friend. I did it right there and then. I was forever changed. A new person. You know, the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. I am that man. I can prove it. Genuine joy is part of my make-up, the stake in my soul is gone, I am drug free (and was in an instant). No withdrawals. Nada. I have met my wife (that is a post worth waiting for…). I am pretty much happy – most of the time. I know what I was created for, and it gives me a kick doing it. Jesus has become my drug of choice. Turns out those guys from Roxy Music were right; Love is the Drug. Any man, who leaves His throne, becomes a man, takes a couple of stakes in His hands and feet to rid me of the stake in my soul; is worth following. In fact He is worth becoming!
And that is the kicker. I still drink the odd glass of wine. How many drunks can boast of that? Let’s face it, most can never have another drink, because the old man lurks in the shadows, waiting to make a cameo appearance. I am not suggesting for recovering alcoholics to get back on the sauce. On the contrary, my boasting is in the grace that I have been afforded through the new creation of Christ. You see, I am no longer a drunk. Think of it, only a new man, a truly new creation can leave the past behind, and live as one with a future. More to the point, only a new man can toast his newness with a glass of wine. And so, I toast my Lord, and I toast our future. The one He bought for me on the cross. Amen.